After one of these games, knee jerk reactions always abound and so it proves.
Whilst Celtic fans are divided on what today means – some think it’s a minor matter, others, like me, want it to be a lesson to certain players to stop trying to cruise through matches – one thing we’re all pretty clear on; that was Celtic today at nowhere near their best.
Sevco played far and above themselves today; they ran for everything, they worked incredibly hard, they pressed us at every opportunity. If they can muster the same performance for the cup semi-final they have a chance. Of course they do.
But hysteria now abounds on their forums.
Let me bring them down to Earth a little; what I saw today was as poor a Celtic display as I’ve seen. But I didn’t see any extraordinarily gifted Sevco team, just one that worked harder and snatched a draw late in the game. They deserve credit for it, but only the same credit that I would have given to any bog-standard, blood and thunder, SPL team who came to town and snatched a point. And that’s all they were today, and that’s all they are.
In the aftermath of the game, Clint Hill gave both barrels to the media and to guys like myself who expected, and predicted, that Celtic would win, as if the form book didn’t suggest it, as if performances didn’t point towards it, as if our run was something we’d invented instead of something we’d actually achieved.
Did we get it wrong?
The result was 1-1, so yes we did.
Were we wrong to point out the simple fact that on the day Celtic were expected to win, because we’re the best team in this country, by a distance?
No we were not.
Because that’s the reality of the situation and one late goal does not alter that reality.
If we approach the cup semi-final with the wrong attitude and we don’t apply ourselves to the task in the proper fashion we could lost the game. But that would be true if we’d got Aberdeen or Hibs; that’s not a reflection on how “good” Sevco are.
They aren’t a good team. The other two semi-finalists are better footballing sides.
St Mirren gave us a fright last week. They’re not the only team to do it in recent months. We’re not off form, but we’re capable of having some right bad days, or even just segments of games where we’re not one hundred percent focussed. And that happens to every single team. Barcelona, on the back of the greatest football comeback of all time, lost today away at La Coruna. Nobody in Catalonia will be self-flagellating over it.
The fundamentals have not changed; on our day we are capable of giving any team in Scotland – not just this lot – a going over. But everyone in the team has to be on form to do it. There can’t be lapses in concentration or taking it easy.
I will feel no more nervous before the cup semi-final than I would if it were Inverness or Hearts or Hibs or Aberdeen or any other team capable of pressing us and trying to close us down. Because on the wrong day that could work.
I’m unhappy with what I saw from my team today, but that unhappiness shouldn’t be mistaken for despondency or doubt; that was a sub-par performance and but for a lapse in concentration right at the end it would still have been good enough for three points.
And that’s the measure of the opposition today, and their fans can preen and posture and get ahead of themselves all they want.
Right now, online, they are telling themselves they have nothing to fear.
One halfwit has already called the Record Hotline – the halfwit’s Roll of Honour – to say that “if that’s the best that Celtic could muster then bring it on … “, as if it was the best, as if that was us today in full flight. The ability of these people to convince themselves, on the back of one display, that a nirvana is around the corner … it is astounding.
Listening to Hill after the game was surreal; you would think they had won a match, a cup, a title, and shut up the critics everywhere. They drew one game, late in the day, and in doing so fell another point behind Aberdeen and another point closer to Hearts and St Johnstone.
They are entitled to feel good about not being beaten, but that’s about it.
The last time they drew with us over 90 minutes they had similarly convinced themselves that they’d stumbled onto the formula for Coca Cola. We all know how things turned out. You’d think they’d learn from that … but as usual, the old supremacy rears its head and they are lost up their own backsides.
Unbelievable, and yet all too predictable.